Rebuttal: A scientist defends climate change findings

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In his Sept. 7 Pittsburgh Press column, Jack Kelly -- a Republican Party operative known largely for his malicious attacks and dishonest smears (see e.g. SourceWatch page: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Jack_Kelly), has once again maligned my scientific work and repeated other discredited climate change myths from fossil fuel groups and the ideologues they fund.

Mr. Kelly quotes emails stolen from the University of East Anglia in the U.K. He failed to tell readers that multiple investigations, including that by the highest authority in the land -- the National Science Foundation's Office of the Inspector General -- have found nothing nefarious at all about these stolen emails and have instead concluded that scientists' words were twisted and misrepresented, much as Mr. Kelly continues to do.

Back in 2005, after a fossil fuel industry-funded politician had attacked my co-authors and me, Rep. Sherry Boehlert, R-N.Y., asked the National Academy of Sciences to review studies like mine that examined the Earth's past temperature. Despite Mr. Kelly's false claim to the contrary, the NAS reaffirmed our original findings (see e.g. "Science Panel Backs Study on Warming Climate," New York Times, June 22, 2006) that modern temperatures are higher than they've been in more than 1,000 years.

Dozens of studies have since reproduced and extended our findings. The most recent report of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in fact, came to even stronger conclusions than our original work, finding that Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the past half century were "likely the highest in at least the past 1,300 years."

There are numerous independent lines of evidence that humans are warming the planet and changing our climate by burning coal and other fossil fuels. And despite Mr. Kelly's claims to the contrary (he falsely asserts that global temperatures reached a peak in 1998, when in fact NASA found 2010 to be the warmest year on record), the warming continues unabated, with the past decade the warmest on record and with the U.S. currently experiencing the hottest year on record.

The reality and threat of human-caused climate change are clear. Those, such as Mr. Kelly, who are misleading the public about this critical issue are doing a grave injustice not just to us, but to our children and grandchildren who will inherit the legacy of the energy choices we are making today.

Partisan political operatives like Mr. Kelly have increasingly turned to personal attacks because the facts are not on their side. These attacks have gotten so out of hand that I felt compelled to add my own story to those of other scientists who have faced industry and ideological attack for their work in my new book, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines."

I encourage those wishing to learn the truth about climate change to read the book.

opinion_commentary

Dr. Michael E. Mann is a professor in the department of meteorology at Penn State University and director of Penn State's Earth System Science Center.


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